Building strength through synergies of Redstone

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Posted: Tuesday, March 12, 2013 9:06 pm

Arsenal leaders address aspiring professionals

Sitting on a panel to discuss the synergies of Redstone Arsenal, Pam McCue had a piece of equipment that she knew would make a statement.

After explaining to the Leadership Connect class about the role of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Missile and Space Intelligence Center, she reached behind the panel and pulled out a Russian single-shot missile launch tube.

“We study the characteristics, performance and operations of threat weapons,” she said. “We get intelligence from wherever we can. Sometimes it’s a photo or something on display at an air show. Every once in a while, we get the real thing.”

The Russian single-shot missile launch tube is almost as long as McCue is tall. The missile hones in on the heat of aircraft to find its target. The engineers at the Missile and Space Intelligence Center work to understand how such weapons work so that the U.S. can counter the threats.

“If we do our jobs right, we’re protecting our pilots and air crew, and making sure our military and allies have the advantage,” McCue said.

She explained that, although MSIC is part of an intelligence world that is often shrouded by secrecy, the organization is very much part of the Redstone Arsenal community because it was originally established as part of the Army.

Not to be outdone, panel participant Johnny Stephenson of Marshall Space Flight Center told the class that “my missiles are outside,” referring to the NASA space park just a brief walk from the Garrison’s building 4488 where the meeting was held.

That comment got a laugh from the Leadership Connect group, which includes aspiring professionals from throughout the Huntsville/Madison County community who visited Redstone Arsenal on March 6 to learn about the installation from some of its leaders.

While McCue talked with the group about the work MSIC does in the area of intelligence and homeland defense, Stephenson introduced the group to space operations and missile defense at Redstone while Eric Edwards, the director of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, talked with them about Redstone’s research, development, test and engineering activities; Brian Steinberg of the Security Assistance Command provided information about Foreign Materiel Sales; and Craig Northridge of the Garrison spoke about sustaining the force.

In his presentation, Stephenson told the group that the NASA budget began at $17.7 billion for the current fiscal year, but has been reduced to $16.9 billion due to sequestration. The budget amount is less than a half percent of the entire federal budget, compared to being at 4.4 percent of the federal budget during the Apollo days.

“Marshall Space Flight Center is one of 10 field centers across the U.S.,” he said. “We focus generally on propulsion. … If it’s a human and it’s in space, it’s probably gone through Marshall Space Flight Center.”

The center has 6,000 employees, making it the second largest employer in the area behind the Department of Defense and in front of Huntsville Hospital.

Currently, the center’s employees are focused on developing the space launch system. But many of Marshall’s technologies have been commercialized or been used for the public good, including its visual imagery system for helping law enforcement catch criminals in the act and the satellite images provided by NASA following the April 27, 2011, tornadoes that helped identify areas of destruction.

Marshall works closely with its Team Redstone partners, including the Garrison in establishing a joint 911 center and the Redstone Test Center in testing new systems that can be of benefit to both NASA and the Army.

Recalling the history of Marshall, Stephenson said the space agency has its roots in the Army and that it was Dr. Wernher von Braun who went to the state legislature in 1961 to request a $3 million investment in higher education in Huntsville “that would reap literally billions.” That investment was the establishment of what is now the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

“He knew what it would take to make this area special, and that was intellectual capital,” Stephenson said.

Much of Redstone’s new technologies are grounded in the efforts of the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center, where a force of 10,000 engineers and scientists and support personnel work on life cycle engineering for the Army’s missile and aviation systems. Its $3 billion a year budget is predominantly customer reimbursable.

“We do the life cycle engineering for the research and engineering part of what we put in the hands of Soldiers 30 years from now and for how to dispose of systems that are no longer needed,” AMRDEC director Edwards said.

While MSIC and AMRDEC focus on building a stronger defense and Marshall is focused on flying new rockets into space, the Security Assistance Command is working to build the strength of the nation’s allies through foreign military sales.

“We are making sure they get the equipment they need to fight alongside of us and to be interoperable with our systems,” USASAC’s Steinberg said.

For instance, Steinberg supports efforts in the Netherlands to provide that nation with Chinook and Apache helicopters.

“We do a lot of work with many of the organizations on Redstone to meet our mission,” Steinberg said. “We are fully funded by foreign dollars. USASAC will not make or lose money for the U.S. government. But the work we do here does help keep people employed at Redstone.”

Wrapping up the panel discussion, the Garrison’s Northridge said his organization works much like a city, providing the fire, police and infrastructure services needed by Arsenal organizations. From the Arsenal’s newest office buildings to quality of life amenities, the Garrison is the service provider for the installation’s 55 major organizations.

“Just about everything on the installation we manage from a facilities standpoint,” Northridge said. “In order to make Redstone what it can be, we try to integrate from a facilities and land use standpoint. … Our role is to provide the platform for Redstone’s organizations to do their job. If we’re not successful, it’s very difficult for the people at the table to be successful.”

Those on the panel said their organizations are working to take advantage of the synergies at Redstone Arsenal so that both the Department of Defense and NASA benefit from the relationship.

“Sequestration will push all of us to look even more closely at where we can work together,” Stephenson said.

Edwards added the success of Team Redstone and its synergies relies on building relationships on both personal and professional levels.

“Through relationships we get to know each other and we can use that as a foundation to bring us together for the benefit of our missions,” he said.

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